Could A GOP Flip-Flop Doom Constitutional Carry In Louisiana?

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

The short version is yes, it easily could. The bigger question is why on earth would any Republican who voted for Constitutional Carry during Louisiana’s regular legislative session turn around and vote against it during the veto override session that begins on Tuesday?

The answer, if you believe the rumors floating around Baton Rouge, is that two Republicans have had their arms twisted by Gov. John Bel Edwards in advance of the session. Sen. Ronnie Johns won’t be in attendance this week, allegedly because of a knee replacement surgery, while Sen. Patrick Connick is rumored to be now a “no” on Constitutional Carry after voting in favor of the permitless carry legislation just a few weeks ago.

Media reports indicate that Sen. Johns has been promised a Gaming Commissioner job by Edwards, while Sen. Connick trading his vote to override for infrastructure funding in his district.

Reports out of Baton Rouge also indicate that a majority of Democrat lawmakers who originally voted in favor of Constitutional Carry during the regular session are also backing out on the vote.

The NRA called out Connick on social media this past weekend, though they didn’t reference the allegation that Connick is engaging in some backdoor wheeling and dealing with the governor in exchange for his vote.

Thanks in large part to Huey Long’s time as governor/dictator in Louisiana back in the 1930s, Louisiana’s executive enjoys far more authority than most gubernatorial positions, including a line-item veto in appropriation bills and the power to determine which publicly-funded projects get to proceed swiftly and which ones are put on the back burner. That, in turn, allows governors like Edwards the power to strong-arm lawmakers into going along with his vetoes, which is a major reason why this week’s session is the first special session called to attempt an override in the state’s recent history. Generally speaking, there’s not much point in going up against the governor when that office and its occupier can dangle so many carrots in front of legislators.

I reached out directly to Sen. Connick for comment, but received no reply to my repeated attempts to get him on the record about where he stands on Constitutional Carry. I suspect that unless Connick is overwhelmed with contacts from his constituents urging him to keep his word (and his vote) on the issue, the Republican senator is going to claim that it was opposition from law enforcement and not the promise of an infrastructure project in his district that convinced to change his mind.

Maybe voters will buy that excuse, but I don’t, and I doubt many gun owners will believe it either. Louisiana already allows for open carry without a license, so the supposed concerns about people carrying with a lack of training don’t really add up. Besides, it’s not like Constitutional Carry is some unheard of idea. Louisiana would be the 22nd state in the nation to adopt the measure if the legislature successfully overrides Gov. Edwards’ veto, and some of the states with the lowest crime rates in the nation like New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine recognize the right of legal gun owners to carry in self-defense without the need for a government permission slip.

With Sen. Johns a no-show for this week’s session, Patrick Connick’s vote could end up being the difference between Constitutional Carry becoming law or just another vetoed bill. The senator might be worried about the reaction by police, or maybe he’s just looking at bringing some pork back home to his district. Either way, if he’s hoping to continue his career in Republican politics, he needs to put the rights of his constituents ahead of any sweetheart deal from the governor’s office or unfounded concerns by some chiefs and sheriffs who are happy with the status quo.